Damn Port-lights

6 May 2019   Herrington Harbour North, Virginia
It’s very strange to wake up in the morning without having to think about our next passage or the next anchorage.  We’ve been constantly on the move since October and have done nearly 3,000 miles since we left Trinidad.  We don’t even have to look at the weather forecast apart from finding out if it’s going to rain and possibly spoil our maintenance work.

We’ve been looking at flights back to the UK and have started to think about the logistics of finding a car and a house when we arrive back in England.  Our current thoughts are to live the Gloucestershire/Herefordshire area mostly because we should be able to find a house in the countryside at a reasonable price.  

Scraping off old sealant

Glenys borrowed one of the marina’s bikes and ran a few errands, sending off our autopilot display unit to have a small modification done to the LCD display that I fitted in Trinidad.  There was no sign of rain, so I removed six of the port-lights and started to scrape the old silicone sealant from them.  It’s a tedious job with each hatch taking 90 minutes to get clean.  After lunch, Glenys helped me with the hatches.

By three o’clock, we had five hatches cleaned and I set to the messy task of bedding the lenses into the frames.  My first attempt was a disaster because I left the backing paper on one side of the lens – I had to remove the lens, clean up and start again.  

On my second attempt, I masked off the lens and the frame and peeled off the masking tape before the sealant had skinned.  Unfortunately, the lens moved about when I was removing the tape, so I had to apply more sealant and will have to clean it up when dry.

For the remaining four port-lights, I didn’t bother masking anything off and will clean off the cured sealant in 2 days’ time.  Jameson at Maritime Plastics had suggested this method, but I thought that I’d try masking tape – I should have taken his advice from the beginning.  By the end of the day, we had 5 port-lights with lenses in – only 7 to go.

7 May 2019   Herrington Harbour North, Virginia
We’ve made good progress with the port-lights and I’m expecting that we’ll have them all back in place by the 12th, so I arranged to haul out on the 22nd, which will give us 10 days to finish off the remaining jobs - mostly cleaning and varnishing.  We’re planning on having 7 days to do any jobs that arise after haul-out, so Glenys has booked our flights to the UK on the 29th May.  It’s good to have a deadline and a plan. 

Applying sealant to the aft window

I spent a few hours pulling out the remaining four port-lights and Glenys started the mind-numbing job of cleaning the old sealant from the frames.  I then tackled the aft port-light.  It’s a fixed window with a curved frame and lens.  The frame has been stuck in with some very strong adhesive and I’m unable to remove it from the hull, so I had to figure out some way of clamping the lens in place while holding the curve.

I decided to use the existing bolt holes in the frame and made a couple of flat “clamping” bars out of an old sail batten.  Using the bars, I was able to push the lens near the middle and hold the curve.  Unfortunately, with the bars in place, I’m unable to smooth off the surface of the sealant to make a nice finish, so I opted for a two- step approach - first stick the lens in place and then after three days when it is fully cured, I’ll apply a second bead of sealant to finish off the job.  I discussed this with Maritime Plastics and they say this will work fine and the sealant will bond well to cured sealant.

It was going to be a messy job, so I covered our bed with an old sheet and newspaper and then ran through four dry runs to make sure that I had a smooth method and all the tools to hand.  Everything went well and I didn’t make too much mess even when I scraped out the surface sealant to leave a 4mm deep groove to give a good bonding depth for the second application.  

With the aft window in place, I spent the rest of the afternoon helping Glenys with the last four port-lights.  These are the biggest on the boat at 27” long and it took us 2½ hours per frame.  We gave up at 17:30 and will have to finish the last two tomorrow.

8 May 2019   Herrington Harbour North, Virginia
Glenys had a brief respite from scraping hatches and spent an hour cleaning the front of the hull.  After spending 5 weeks in the ICW and the Chesapeake, we’ve picked up a horrible brown stain on the water line caused by the brown sediment in the water - commonly called the “Chesapeake Moustache”.  She washed it down with detergent and then applied some “On and Off”, which is basically Oxalic and Hydrochloric acid, which cleaned the gel coat up nicely. 

Another batch of port-lights

Meanwhile, the rest of our day was spent on the port-lights.  We cleaned the old sealant from the last two port-lights and I cleaned off the residue of the new sealant from the five port-lights that now have the lenses installed.  It wasn’t too difficult a job, but it was time consuming, taking about an hour a hatch.  I used plastic razor blades to carefully cut off the hardened sealant and any smears came off very easily.

In the afternoon, I fixed the lenses onto the remaining 6 port-lights.  We now have the lenses stuck into all of the port-lights, but we’re only half way through the job.  I’m going to leave the sealant to harden tomorrow and then over the following three days, I’ll finish off the aft port-light and fit the 11 opening port-lights into the hull.  

9 May 2019   Herrington Harbour North, Virginia
We had a lazier, hatch-less day - I have to wait for 24 hours for the sealant to cure before I can continue.  Glenys removed all of our 15 curtains and soaked them in a bleach solution.  She then removed all of the hundreds of curtain hooks and slides and soaked then in a bleach solution as well.  Meanwhile, I kept out of the way catching up on a little admin.

Packing our possessions to ship home

Glenys also packed up a box which we’re going to ship back to the UK using a courier service called MyBaggage.com.  We were initially thinking of taking our belongings home in six cargo bags on the aircraft, but Icelandic Air charges as much as $150 per bag for excess baggage.  MyBaggage provides a door to door service and ship things to the UK for around $80-$100, so we’re giving that a try with one box of miscellaneous stuff.

In the afternoon, I emptied the anchor locker which was filthy after anchoring in muddy places along the east coast of the USA.   The chain is starting to show surface rust and I’m going to de-rust it when we’re on the hard, but for the time being, I placed it on the deck wrapped in a piece of plastic.  I’m hoping that this will prevent it getting too wet and keep the deck from staining.

I hosed down the anchor locker, but it still needs a good cleaning and some of the paint is flaking off, so it needs wire-brushing and painting with bilge paint - a job for another day.

10 May 2019   Herrington Harbour North, Virginia
We were back on the port-lights with a vengeance.  Our morning was spent carefully scraping the surplus new sealant from the last six port-lights.  I then inspected all of the rubber seals and decided that I would replace two of them.   One seal looked to be cracked and another one had old silicone sealant applied to seal a leak. 

I hadn’t noticed the silicone sealant when the hatches were still in place - it must have been done by the previous owner about ten years ago.  I pulled off the old seal, which was very easy because the seal is only held in place by a tiny 3mm wide L-section groove.  Unfortunately, this groove had sealant in it, so Glenys spent a boring 2 hours scraping it out with a razor blade, a small screwdriver and a bit of wire.  It took me 30 minutes to push the new seal in place.

Sticking port-lights back in the coachroof

The afternoon was sunny, so I took the opportunity to fit three of the opening port-lights back into the hull - only 8 to go.  At 18:00, it started to rain, so we tidied up and cracked open a cold beer.   After dark, the heavens opened with torrential rain and a couple of the holes in the coach-roof started to leak - one in the front heads, which wasn’t a problem and one over my armchair, which was dripping on my head. We’re hoping to get the rest of the hatches installed tomorrow, because there’s much more rain forecast over the next three days.  

11 May 2019   Herrington Harbour North, Virginia
After breakfast, I started to stick the port-lights back into the coach roof.  Meanwhile Glenys was cleaning up the screws that hold them in place and giving the frames a final clean before installation. It all went well and, by 16:00, we’d installed all but one, but then it started to rain.  Fortunately, it was only a passing shower and 20 minutes later, I was able to stick in the last port-hole. 

I’m really pleased with the job that we’ve done - all the opening port-lights look fabulous now and I know that they’re installed correctly.  I just have to finish off the fixed window in the back cabin, which needs a final seam of sealant and cleaning up. 

The weather is forecast to be persistent rain for the next two days and the wind will be coming from the north east, which is on our port aft quarter.  Rather than having the wind howling through the cockpit and down into our saloon, we put up the “tent”, which completely encloses the cockpit.  It’s the first time that we’ve used it for over five years.

12 May 2019   Herrington Harbour North, Virginia
It was a miserable rainy day, so being a Sunday, we declared a holiday and pottered about on board.  I caught up on administration and gathered together the information that we’ll need to present to the banks to obtain a mortgage when we get back to the UK.  I also started investigating drawing down my pension, which will be giving us income, which we need to qualify for a mortgage.

Glenys cooked a traditional Sunday Lunch and we spent the afternoon drinking a bottle of wine and watching a movie - a nice relaxing day.